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Parents in; bands, cheerleaders probably out

The recent decision by Gov. Tom Wolf to allow limited spectators at high school sporting events may come at the expense of marching bands and cheerleaders at schools like Tamaqua Area High School.

While some spectators will now be allowed at games, as of Tuesday, the Wolf administration still plans to apply its limits on gatherings to high school sporting events: 250 people for outdoor events, and 25 for indoor events.

In order to allow parents to attend home football games, and meet the 250-person limit, the district will likely have to disinvite cheerleaders and some members of its 210-member marching band.

“We’re put into a situation where we have to decide between our band and cheerleaders coming, and two parents of the football players that are there. There are excellent reasons to have both of them there,” said Superintendent Ray Kinder.

With the first home football game on Sept. 19, the board plans to officially decide who gets to attend football games at a scheduled school board meeting next Tuesday.

However, there are also bills pending in Harrisburg which could let individual schools decide how many spectators get to attend games.

Kinder said the 250-person limit on gatherings includes players, coaches and officials. With the entire away team included, that’s about 160 people.

Up until last week, Tamaqua also planned to allow its cheerleaders and 60-70 band members.

Its plan was to split the band into four units, with each one getting to play at one of the four scheduled home football games.

After the Wolf Administration’s reversal on spectators, Kinder surveyed board members. Most of them said they favored allowing the football parents.

Kinder said he sees the value in both: the band members and cheerleaders are Tamaqua students, while parents deserve to see their children compete, and to be there if their player is injured.

Kinder said if the district decides to allow parents instead of the band, he wants to find other ways to allow the band to perform this fall. He said he would like band members and their parents to be involved in planning those events.

“This is something I think I would certainly want their opinion on. I want, whatever we do for them, to make it of value to them, and not to make it seem like an afterthought, because it’s not,” Kinder said.

He said it could include having the band perform in the stadium a few hours before kickoff, or on a Friday night when the football team plays Saturday afternoon. He said other schools plan to use their bands at soccer games and even cross-country meets.

Kinder said he would be open to allowing the band to play in the middle school parking lot during games if they are interested.

Trina Schellhammer said she’s in favor of staying under the limit, but would like to see junior and senior band members play at some football games.

Board President Larry Wittig said he doesn’t agree with the 250 person limit - because it has no basis in science. He said the district could allow more people at games with social distancing. Short of that, he supports having football parents temporarily leave during halftime to allow the band to enter the stadium and perform.

“I know the majority of you said in the survey that football parents should take precedent and I understand that and somewhat agree with it. But on the other side, I think we’re kicking to the curb a big part of our extracurricular, frankly with more people involved,” Wittig said.

Board member Brian Miller, the parent of a senior in the marching band, said he also disagrees with the 250 person limit, but doesn’t think the district should ignore it. He also said the plan to allow band members and parents for halftime only could lead to issues with parents who would be unwilling to leave.

“As much as I don’t like what the governor’s proposed, the fact of the matter is this is what we’ve been dealt. To try to go around that, I think sets a bad example,” Miller said.